Help on way for air traffic jams
Captains Jeff Martin, left, and Kevin Fergerson work with GPS-based traffic displays in a Southwest Airlines cockpit.
March 4th, 2011
12:32 PM ET

Help on way for air traffic jams

Tom Stuker jokes that his home is "in Row One in a nice, big plane."

The 57-year-old car dealership consultant is a mega-frequent flier who has racked up 9.7 million miles during 5,000 flights over the past three decades - and he's got the stories to prove it.

"I've experienced aborted takeoffs, aborted landings, near misses and passenger deaths on three different flights."

Sure, his status as frequent-flier king earns him royal treatment. But the U.S. commercial airline system often leaves him stranded like millions of other travelers.

To deal with potential gridlock from the 1 billion U.S. air passengers expected to crowd the skies by 2021, the FAA is overhauling its traffic system, which has remained largely unchanged for 30 years.

The overhaul is called NextGen and components of the air traffic program are in use or being tested at airports in several U.S. cities including Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle and Louisville, Kentucky.

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